The Latest Kick
by Jeela Ongley
photos by Elea Dumas
A hypnotically beautiful combination of gymnastics, dance and fighting technique, capoeira (cap-oh-AIR-ah) is essentially an African martial art that evolved into its current form in Brazil. First introduced to Hawaii in 1994 by teacher Rod Ussing, who learned the art at a school in Palo Alto, Calif., capoeira has been attracting an increasingly dedicated following here, bolstered by enthusiastic young athletes, dancers and the growing local Brazilian community. There are now several schools practicing on Oahu and Maui, and the toney Honolulu Club is even offering "capoé," a workout based on the dance aspect of capoeira.
While each acrobatic bout has the look of artistic combat practice, there is no technical winner, says Leonardo "Japa" Naito, a Brazilian instructor who teaches a style called senzala. "But the more you play, you get to know when you ‘got’ them. And they know, too!"
Senzala with Japa